Sculptor Kevin Christman carefully secured the straps that hung from a crane around his sculpture.
On-lookers, many snapping photos with cameras and cell phones, watched on Friday as Christman stood in the back of his powder blue 1951 GMC truck and readied the cloth-bound sculpture in the truck's bed.
"That's his baby," said Gene Phipps, as the crane lifted its hook and the straps grew more taught.
Phipps, a Medford resident who came to see the installation of the sculpture in front of SoundPeace in downtown Ashland, said he used to live in the Brea, Calif. area. A change in law there governing public art eventually yielded more than 50 sculptures.
Christman first proposed the installation of the sculpture to the city of Ashland Public Arts Commission back in November 2007. But the city's restrictive sign code banned the sculpture.
After a lengthy process, the Public Arts Commission won support from the Ashland City Council to add new laws that paved the way for more public art in town, including Christman's sculpture depicting a crouching woman with wings tied to her back.
Christman has loaned the sculpture, titled "Alchemy of Light," to the city indefinitely.
Nearly two years after Christman first proposed the sculpture's installation, Ashland resident Penny Herman said it was fitting that the sculpture was installed on Sept. 11, the anniversary of attacks on the World Trade Center and other buildings in America.
"I think it's a wonderful blessing. It's a manifestation of the consciousness that lives here that we would gather this morning in the name of peace," Herman said as she held an orange rose that she planned to place later at the sculpture's feet.
Christman made the final adjustments to the straps and the crane lifted the sculpture up into the air, slowly swinging it toward a concrete pad built into the ground in front of SoundPeace.
On-lookers broke into relieved applause when the crane set the sculpture and its attached pedestal safely down.
Christman's five-year-old son Jacob Christman was among those who helped twist on bolts to attach the sculpture pedestal firmly to its pad in the ground.
Flanked by Public Arts Commission members, Ashland Chamber of Commerce representatives, SoundPeace Co-owner Steve Cole, property owners Cherie and Jerry Garland and others, Christman spoke about the journey to get the sculpture installed.
"It's just a testament to the public being in support of public art," he said.
Public Arts Commission Chair Dana Bussell said Ashland is amazingly lucky to have artists who are willing to loan or donate their work for public art that the community can enjoy.
Christman then pulled off the protective cloth covering the sculpture to reveal "Alchemy of Light" with its delicately sculpted hands, realistic folds of cloth and highly detailed wings that show every feather.
Exclamations of "ooh" and "beautiful" came from the crowd.
A swallowtail butterfly with yellow wings and black stripes alighted on the purple flower of a butterfly bush next to the sculpture, adding to the crowd's delight.
Christman said in the last few years, Ashland has made great progress in creating laws that allow for more public art.
"I just want to acknowledge that the arts are such an important part of our world. To have a community gaining momentum in supporting art and understanding the importance of art in our lives is really inspiring," he said.
Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.